China’s new social credit system sounds like something out of a dystopian novel. The system was implemented to make it difficult for law-breakers and other “risky citizens” to travel or move away from their current area. And what constitutes “law-breaking” in China is rather broad. Offenses can include smoking in non-smoking zones, failure to pay certain debts, riding a train without a ticket, and loitering. These transgressions will cause a citizen’s so-called social credit to drop, while performing good, charitable acts like blood donations and volunteer work cause it to rise. Since a certain amount of credit is required for booking flights, those with low social credit will find traveling quite difficult, if not impossible.
According to Reuters, using social credit scoring to blacklist citizens and prevent them from using transportation started years ago. “In early 2017, the country’s Supreme People’s Court said during a press conference that 6.15 million Chinese citizens had been banned from taking flights for social misdeeds.”
In the past, students have been blocked from attending certain schools and universities due to their parents’ low social credit scores. These parents had failed to honor court decisions, pay debts, or committed other offenses, resulting in their placement on a blacklist for “untrustworthy persons.” Low social credit can even be used as a reason to deny “untrustworthy persons” hotel check-ins or job opportunities.